September 23, 20 - 8:19 pm - Reuters

Argentina jobless rate hits 16-year high amid pandemic, lockdown

Argentina‘s unemployment rate jumped to 13.1% in the second quarter of the year as the country was swiped by the coronavirus pandemic, the official statistics agency said on Wednesday, the highest since 2004 and up from 10.4% in the previous quarter.

Argentina imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March, hitting an already shaky economy in recession since 2018 and leaving many businesses struggling to survive.

“The (unemployment) numbers largely reflect the impact on labor market dynamics from the COVID-19 pandemic and from the restrictions on certain activities and movement,” Argentina’s INDEC statistics body said in a report.

The agency said the sectors hardest hit included construction, hotels and restaurants and domestic services.

Workers who were fired from the Labor Ministry sell lentil soup outside the Ministry building in Buenos Aires, Argentina, June 21, 2017. Photo: Reuters/Marcos Brindicci/File photo

The South American grains producer, which is just emerging from default on its foreign debt, needs to revive its economy and get people back to work to stave off a sharp increase in poverty and to refill depleted government coffers.

On Tuesday, the country’s disclosed its GDP results for 2020’s second quarter: a record contraction of 19.1% versus the same period a year earlier.

The steep fall, deeper than a 16.3% drop during Argentina’s major 2002 crisis, came as the South American country imposed a strict lockdown in mid-March to stem the virus. The country now has over 650,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19.